by Dan Ventresca | AHL On The Beat Archive
There is a tradition in hockey locker rooms that’s as old as sharpening skates and keeping pucks in a freezer. It is as much a part of a player’s daily routine as eating breakfast.
That tradition? Pulling pranks on teammates.
Manchester Monarchs Equipment Manager Mike Holden has been with the Monarchs since the team’s inaugural season in 2001-02. He’s seen Kings prospects from Dustin Brown to Tyler Toffoli come through Manchester on their way to Los Angeles. But no matter how big a star a player becomes, no one is above getting pranks pulled on them.
Holden says most teams have a clever player who likes to pull pranks on younger players and pin the crime on someone else.
“Usually all you need is one guy,” Holden said.
“Ten years ago, a guy was doing this and he pinned it on me – and I didn’t do it,” Holden said. “So, I told the guy, ‘Look, I didn’t do that to you. I know who did it because I’m always around the room. We’re going to get this guy.’”
Holden had a plan in mind, but to optimize the effectiveness of his prank, he had to wait a week or so for a day with bad weather.
“So, they’re out on the ice doing the practice and I got [the culprit’s] jeans and brought them in here [to the equipment room]. I put his car keys in his pocket, turned his pants inside out, and I sewed it shut.”
The player left the locker room and walked out to the parking lot in the pouring rain before reaching his hand down for his keys. When he realized that his pant pocket was sewn shut, he returned to the rink confused and wet. Holden and the player who was in with him on the prank were waiting in the locker room. After the player gave his pants back to Holden to have unsewn, he threw them and his shoes in the shower.
“We called him out into the hallway, threw his pants and shoes out there then locked all the doors so he couldn’t come in here and put on dry clothes. So he had to drive home with wet shoes and wet pants.”
According to Holden, the best pranks are done anonymously.It takes a high level of skill to trick someone without it being traced back to you. Some of the common pranks in the Monarchs locker room recently have included putting salad dressing in a bottle of chocolate syrup next to the ice cream, putting shaving cream in someone’s shoe, or throwing a bucket of ice water over a bathroom stall while a player is in there.
Back when players were using wooden sticks, all you needed was a hacksaw to have some fun.
“Take a hacksaw and cut the back of the stick about halfway – he’s not going to see it – but he goes out there, takes one pass, and the blade falls off the stick,” Holden said. “He goes out there, breaks a stick, goes over to the bench, gets another stick, one more pass, the stick breaks, he goes through five sticks in one minute.”
Although players these days still have fun messing around with one another, Holden has seen a shift in the mentality of the players through the years. Last season, the Kings took Tanner Pearson and Toffoli from the Monarchs to contribute to their Stanley Cup championship. In 2012, it was Dwight King and Jordan Nolan who went straight from Manchester to a Stanley Cup run. The Kings have drafted and developed the entire core of their team from Jonathan Quick to Brown and Alec Martinez.
Because of Los Angeles’ emphasis on player development, the players who are in Manchester know that they are one small step from being part of a Stanley Cup contender. That mentality tends to give the players more of a business-like demeanor, cutting out some of the goofiness often associated with young hockey players.
“Ten years ago, you were like a rookie for three years,” Holden said. “You had to be in the league for four or five years before you started not being a rookie. Now you’re here for three years and you’re the captain.”
The locker room hierarchy is one tradition that remains. The older, more established players are not to be pranked by a young player.
“If a younger guy screwed around with a veteran, the veteran would go 10 times beyond what he needs to do to get back at the guy,” Holden said.
He saw a situation where this rule came into play a few years ago. A young player pulled a thoughtless prank on a veteran and the veteran retaliated by stealing the prankster’s car keys and house keys. He then took the keys to the grinder on the skate sharpener, rendering the keys useless.
When asked who stands out in his mind as the greatest jokers he’s seen, Holden listed former Kings Kevin Westgarth and Doug Nolan. However, there’s one name that stands out above the rest – Ace Bailey.
“He had such a strong personality – he was just a guy you couldn’t get mad at.”
The former championship player was the Director of Pro Scouting for the Kings when he was tragically killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks. In his time in hockey, he developed a legendary reputation for pulling pranks.
“He wouldn’t only take over the room, he would take over the building that he was in,” Holden said. “Nothing was safe with him. He’d pull a prank on his mother if he could.”